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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Heavy, awnings that allow for venting catch wind during stormy weather, cross pole is hard to insert, doors can get in the way when open.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
The Black Diamond Ahwahnee is a unique single wall tent. Typically single wall tents don't excel in the comfort category or in warmer, moister three-season conditions as well as there double walled counter-parts. This is where the Ahwahnee sort of fits in-between. It's the best three-season single wall tent we tested, with huge doors, lots of head room, and large awnings that allow you to ventilate as long as its not too windy. This does come at a price, while the Ahwahnee is a four season tent, it isn't as good in super windy conditions because of these same awnings. Back to the niche the Ahwahnee is trying to fill it has the most head room of any single wall tent and taller folks will appreciate its large footprint over most other options.
RELATED: Our complete review of four season tents
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Of all the 22 tents reviewed here the Ahwahnee straight-up has the most headroom. Two six-foot people can sit up with ease, face each other, and hang out. The tent has two poles that cross corner-to-corner and cross once in the center. A third half-length pole supports two awnings that provide cover for ventilation in foul weather. The interior floor is 33 sq. ft., and provides more than adequate space for two. Two large half moon shaped doors give each person their own entrance. The Ahwahnee's greatest selling point is that its wonderfully comfortable, especially considering its a single wall tent. It features a cross pole that helps create awnings that so-long as its not too windy create great ventilation. If its too windy then wind catches in these and they are almost unusable. We do love the Ahwahnee's giant doors but, because the door ends up on the ground we had to take care not to get mud and snow on them when we entered and exited the tent.
Ease of set-up
The Ahwahnee is not as easy to set up as most other four season tents. With a little practice its not that bad, but its simply not as easy as most others. With the Ahwahnee you have to get inside the tent in order to set it up. Another small complaint, which was voiced by all testers, was the Ahwahnee's small and slightly flimsy plastic twist tie style pole clips. These are thin and harder to use than the Velcro on the Black Diamond Firstlight or Nemo's Moki. The Ahwahnee certainly wasn't as easy to set up as The Mountain Hardwear EV2, which pitches from the outside with burly plastic clips, The Hilleberg Tarra and Jannu, both of which use a combination of nylon sleeve and alternating clips, have, without question, our favorite pole attachment method.
The Ahwahnee scored quite low when compared to the other 22 four-season tents reviewed here. The pole design which allows it descent adaptability, is its greatest downfall in severe storms. The cross pole that creates two large awnings that collect wind like spinnakers. This design is ill suited to high winds. Furthermore, if you are forced to close the doors there are no additional vents. Unzipping the tops of the doors is the only way to manage condensation. Breathable ToddTex fabric makes this semi-successful, but other single wall models such as the Marmot Alpinist and Mountain Hardwear EV2 have actual vents that combat condensation with greater success.
The Toddtext fabric means that The Ahwahnee is one of the tougher tents out there and as long as your tent doesn't get destroyed in a storm, the fabric will last for many years and outlive many other single wall tents.
The Ahwahnee weighs 6 lb 15 oz, heavier than all the other single wall tents and some double wall tents but 1-2 pounds lighter than other four season tents that work as well in 3 season conditions.
Along with comfort and livability this is the Ahwahnee's best attributes. It works better in three season conditions and mild 4 season conditions than it does in burly four season expeditions. We'd take this tent alpine climbing in the Cascades, backpacking or Kayak camping in a second but likely wouldn't take it on a trip up Denali or choose to use it as a base camp tent in an area where its going to get pounded.
Value and the Bottom Line
The Ahwahnee is designed to be a versatile year round tent for everything from summer backpacking, fall base camping, to winter mountaineering. Its not the best option for pure four season use or base camping in an alpine environment. Its also a little heavy for a pure "bivi-tent". It is a descent option for places like the Cascades, Sierra, and Tetons where you could encounter any conditions from cold fronts, to rain storms to just plane sunny and nice.
Black Diamond First Light
Black Diamond Eldorado or iTent
— Ian Nicholson, Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: November 4, 2014
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